NIH Budget – Timing & Impact on FY11 Paylines etc.

Right now, traffic on the NIH Paylines & Resources and NIH Discussion pages is all about what does my impact score mean and will I get funded. Most funding decisions are a long way off, though, since 1) the NIH is currently operating under FY10 budget levels; 2) there is a mid-term election coming up (everyone get out & vote!); and 3) results of this election will likely affect whether the NIH gets the recommended 3% increase, a lesser increase, or even a cut in appropriation.

The current Continuing Resolution will keep the federal government operating at FY10 levels through December 3rd. Last year, a non-election year, the omnibus FY10 appropriations bills were passed by Congress and signed by the President in December. However, the CR could well be extended through the start of the new Congress next January. Keep in mind, though, that FY07, which encompassed the 2006 mid-terms, was managed under a CR all year. Not surprisingly, the ICs must be conservative in making funding decisions until they know how much money they have to play with … and will be especially conservative this year with even more unknowns in the equation.

Where do things stand? The Labor/HHS/Education Appropriation Bill, which funds the NIH budget, includes $1B increase for the NIH … but came out of Committee last July along partisan lines (18-12 vote) and has not been considered by the House. The Senate Committee report is of interest in that it lays out Senate interest in specific areas of research at each IC, such as a request to fund liver cancer SPOREs, an increase in funding for stroke research (“The Committee is concerned that the NIH continues to invests only 1% of its budget on stroke research”), and a “networked pediatric research consortia model”. The Report includes only one item under NIGMS that probably would not immediately come to mind for most of us:

The Committee applauds the Institute’s leadership role in the OppNet initiative, which will support basic behavioral science throughout the NIH. The Committee encourages the NIGMS to support basic behavioral research to its fullest potential, and to incorporate basic behavioral training in its forthcoming training plan.

Nature News prepared a series of pieces about the loss of NIH champions in Congress, the threat posed by the deficit on science funding, and the potential ideological (and budgetary) challenges science could face after the mid-term elections. The loss of NIH champions such as Arlen Specter and David Obey, make the NIH appropriation situation even more precarious.

So what about everyone with scored Cycle 1 applications? For applications scored outside the FY10 payline, my advice is to start working on a resubmission (if an A0). For those near or just inside the FY10 payline, decisions will be a long way off in all likelihood, so you might want to discuss a resubmission strategy with your PO (who won’t know about funding either until an appropriation is passed). For those with clearly fundable scores and an encouraging word from your PO, notices will be slow trickling out, so please be patient. And for those of you looking to ICs with no prior payline benchmarks, please be patient with your PO … unless your score is obviously competitive or not, he or she will not know about funding strategies until the NIH appropriation passes, and the advice will likely be to plan on resubmission (assuming you still have your A1 left) or reworking the research for a (legal) new submission.

Update: Oof … from Bloomberg News:

Republicans taking control of the House next year would roll back funding to agencies including NIH to fiscal 2008 levels, according to a proposal by Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., who is likely to become the chamber’s majority leader. That would equate to a 4.3% , or $1.3 billion, cut to the agency’s $30.8 billion annual budget.

But then a glimmer of hope …

Some Republican lawmakers in the House and Senate may defy the budget cuts and defend NIH, Zeitzer said. One ally may be Sen.-elect Mark Kirk of Illinois, who now serves on the House Appropriations Committee, which controls discretionary spending. … Other potential Republican supporters include Reps. Brian Bilbray of California and Dave Reichert of Washington and Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama.

11 Comments »

  1. SaG said

    To ease NIH funding concerns a little bit keep in mind that 2 of the ranking Republicans on the Appropriations committee, Jerry Lewis (who will likely take over as chair of the committee) and CW BIll Young are long time “supporters” of NIH. Young even has an NIH building named after him (http://www.hdrinc.com/portfolio/cw-bill-young-center-for-biodefense-and-emerging-infectious-diseases)

    This is not to suggest that NIH’s glory days of a doubled budget are returning anytime soon. But, I’d be more worried if my grants came from the Dept. of Education.

    • CD0 said

      I just hope that if the Tea Party takes control of the House thy will not keep fueling the paranoia of throwing millions for bioterrorism, as the building named after Mr. Young suggests.

      I would not be as hopeful as some of my colleagues. Besides deriving money from diseases that affect millions of people (e.g., flu) to investigate germs that only exist in military laboratories, the Bush administration brought flat funding rates for years to most institutes. At NCI, for instance, there was an increase of less than 2% from 2004 to 2008, while the accumulated inflation for the same period was ~14%. Reagan brought similar despair to the scientific community during his presidency. What makes people think that people with an even stronger ideological bias are going to improve funding in times of crisis and public deficit is beyond my comprehension.

      Unless there is a big upset this November, we should be pessimistic about the upcoming years. I feel really sorry for people starting an independent career in Science…

  2. xmen said

    darn!

  3. Curie said

    Well, true there is going to be some delay. But even if we don’t get the 3% increase, the commons won’t feel the difference. Did the ARRA surplus in 09 and 10 make any significant increase in general paylines? I don’t think so. Without a 3% increase, institutes will have to come up some mechanism such as a default cut in the grant’s budget. But some institutes such as NIBIB are already doing that. Even with a 3% increase, think about who will get benefited. Do you think this will help or not help the guys who need the most? I don’t think so. The guys who have 3 R01s may feel a slight reduction in their 4th R01 budget.

    The real effect is in the waiting, not on whether NIH gets the 3% increase, imho.

    -MC.

  4. writedit said

    Perhaps we should take some inspiration from the Brits in advocating for more research dollars …

    British researchers had been expecting a budgetary bloodbath last week. The much-heralded Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) from the United Kingdom’s new Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition government came with numerous warnings to expect funding cuts of 20%, 30%, or even 40%—all to reduce the budget deficit. Researchers mobilized by writing letters to newspapers, signing petitions, demonstrating outside government buildings, and—for the well-connected—having a quiet word with departmental officers and ministers about the importance of science to Britain’s future. Something worked. Even though the CSR outlines average cuts of 19% across all government departments, the main part of civil research spending, the science budget, was fixed for the next 4 years at this year’s amount, £4.6 billion ($7.2 billion). Inflation will chip away at that between now and 2015, possibly by as much as 10%, but many believe much worse scenarios were being considered until recently.

  5. writedit said

    Oof … from Bloomberg News:

    Republicans taking control of the House next year would roll back funding to agencies including NIH to fiscal 2008 levels, according to a proposal by Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., who is likely to become the chamber’s majority leader. That would equate to a 4.3% , or $1.3 billion, cut to the agency’s $30.8 billion annual budget.

    But then a glimmer of hope …

    Some Republican lawmakers in the House and Senate may defy the budget cuts and defend NIH, Zeitzer said. One ally may be Sen.-elect Mark Kirk of Illinois, who now serves on the House Appropriations Committee, which controls discretionary spending. … Other potential Republican supporters include Reps. Brian Bilbray of California and Dave Reichert of Washington and Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama.

    (added above as update to main post, too)

    • CD0 said

      They should make clear to cancer patients and people with chronic diseases that 2008 levels for NIH actually mean 2004-2005 levels, and therefore an actual ~16-20% decrease compared to 5-6 years ago, after adjusting by inflation.
      What they do not appear to realize is that economical growth in the US has always been associated with ingenuity and technological advances initiated by the government. The last cycle of expansion was driven by the Internet, which was originally promoted with federal funds.
      The growth of our pharmaceutical industry depends on new discoveries initiated at small laboratories with public funds. Biomedical research is profitable, unlike bombing bridges and then re-building them in Central Asia.
      I hope that at least they will not waste this reduced funding in more bioterroristic idiocy…

      • whimple said

        Actually, only about 25% of new drugs ultimately derive from a university setting.
        http://pipeline.corante.com/archives/2010/11/04/where_drugs_come_from_the_numbers.php
        I don’t think the Universities do a very good job of explaining to lawmakers and the public generally explicitly how NIH-sponsored research has benefited the American taxpayer, with the exception of clinical trials. I hear a lot of vague references to “ground-breaking research” and read a lot of exciting press releases, and I can’t even count anymore how many different ways cancer has been cured (in mice!) but I haven’t seen a whole lot of convincing human-specific cost/benefit analysis to University driven research.:/ This type of a report could be something for the Universities to work on together to make a solid case for additional funding, if the Universities can in fact work together.🙂

      • CD0 said

        I think that we fundamentally agree, but those drugs not directly licensed from non-profit research centers (and 25% is a lot anyway) are ultimately derived from basic knowledge generated with public funds.
        A company may produce a new vaccine against, let’s say HPV, but that’s because many researchers contributed before to dissect the main cause of cervical cancer. And without this knowledge there is no vaccine.
        But, yes, Universities and professional associations should do a better job advocating for the preservation of what used to be the best biomedical researcher system in the world.

  6. Jack Frost said

    From Eisenhower’s farewell speech, in which he famously warned against the growth of the military-industrial complex. He also warned about science becoming overly government-supported…

    “The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded. Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite…”

    http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/ike.htm

  7. writedit said

    Nature continues the budgetary gloom & doom reporting …

    At the $31-billion National Institutes of Health (NIH), for example, it means a hoped-for increase of $750 million in the 2011 budget has effectively evaporated. … Republicans have proposed reducing non-defence spending to 2008 levels …

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